Birthday Wish

Alex Yakunin
7 min readDec 23, 2022

Today is my 43rd birthday. And since there is a good chance this post will get a priority boost in your feeds, I’d like to talk about what really matters instead.

Please support everything the US and EU do to help Ukraine win the war. Please help Ukraine in any way you can.

I know many of you do this already — thank you. What’s concerning, though, is: “Americans are now closely divided on whether Washington should urge Ukraine to settle for peace as soon as possible (47%, up from 38% in July)”. I am sure it’s mostly the fear of recession, but whatever it is, this isn’t a good thing.

I am still a Russian citizen who lives in US for 10 years now. I was 20 when Putin “won” the very first elections there. I quoted “won”, because 6 months earlier no one knew who Putin was, and I remember the information campaign that cemented his victory quite well.

The most distinguishing thing about it? It was based on fear and terror.

The fall of 1999 started with a series of explosions known as Russian apartment bombing. The counter-terrorist campaign to stop this was led by Putin. This campaign, together with significant increase of Russian Armed Forces’ activities in the Second Chechen War, is what turned Putin into a “hero” in the eyes of Russians — despite the fact the whole story with apartment bombings became quite suspicious after the so-called “Ryazan sugar” incident.

Looking back, there is almost zero doubt these explosions were orchestrated by the FSB, which was led by Putin at that time. But the worst thing is: he learned that terror is a magic wand. Just think about this: what else could turn nothing into a leader of the largest country in the world — in just a couple months? And if you are a president — and a secret terrorist — you can play the same game with the whole world.

Things started to roll quite fast after his “castling” with Medvedev:

  • Invasion in Georgia in 2008 — apparently, to remind who actually leads Russia
  • Annexation of Crimea in 2014 — to boost his ratings before 2018 elections; if Putin won’t be as greedy as a pig & won’t enter Donbass as well, this could be a 100% win for him
  • Operation in Syria (2015 & ongoing) — to “fix” the negative impact of Donbass war
  • And finally, the full-blown war with Ukraine this year — Putin believed it’s going to be an easy walk cementing his victory in the upcoming 2024 elections — e.g. we now know many of the officers were advised to take their parade uniform, etc.

Besides plain military operations, there were many secret ones, mainly targeting Russian opposition; Alexey Navalny’s poisoning is the most well-known one among these. Partially, because his team identified the majority of organizers, and Alexey managed to “interview” one of these guys himself. If you love movies, “Navalny” (documentary) is the best thing you can find about this.

So why do I remind you about all of this?

It’s simple, actually. The only reason some of you feel the US shouldn’t continue helping Ukraine is fear. There are many flavors of it, actually:

  • Fear of a deeper recession — e.g. due to oil & natural gas price increase
  • Fear of a significant recession in EU, which might impact the whole world, including US
  • Fear of further escalation, which might end up with direct NATO involvement
  • And finally, fear of nuclear war.

Besides that, there are many smaller ones — e.g. the story with Hunter Biden & Burisma hints that POTUS actions might pursue goals other than declared ones. Honestly, this specific conspiracy theory looks bizarre to me even based on the scale of Hunter Biden’s business there — 10, 20, or even 100 million $ is pocket money for the most influential people in the US. In other words, it’s a coincidence presented as causation. But still, these theories circulate & trigger some fears.

If you’d spent the last 20 years watching Putin’s actions, you won’t doubt Putin is the only reason these fears exist. His fear-mongering campaign can’t squeeze more juice from his own people now (if you don’t know, ~ a half of Russia’s population truly believes they fight Nazi in Ukraine — which means he already used the “ultimate” argument), so he directs terror and fear-mongering on anyone else in the world.

There is a bright side though — you shouldn’t fear. Not just because fear won’t help us anyway, but mostly, because it isn’t real. Yes, Putin is a terrorist, but also a coward. A coward to an extent you probably can’t even imagine, and everyone involved in Russia’s politics knows about this. I’ll name just some of the strongest evidences of this here:

1. He didn’t visit Ukraine a single time after 2013. He drove over the Crimea bridge twice, but I couldn’t find a single photo of him in Crimea after 2013, i.e. it’s arguable whether he even crossed it. Recently Peskov announced he “visited the Special Operation zone” (as a response to Zelensy visiting Bakhmut, i.e. the hottest spot in war zone now), and reporters instantly discovered it was a lie: he actually visited Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don.

2. He spent the whole pandemic somewhere in a completely isolated location — presumably, in one of his “bunkers”. And even when other presidents started to move freely, he wasn’t appearing in public. Rare people meeting with him were required to take a 2-week quarantine. He became infamous for extremely long tables used on these meetings.

3. He fears meeting his own people even now — e.g. his recent meeting with soldiers’ mothers was staged & edited to an extent it’s hard to tell whether they even were in the same room, not speaking about the fact all the “mothers” sitting nearby actually weren’t soldiers’ moms.

Long story short, based on what we know, Putin won’t do anything that possesses even the tiniest risk of him being hurt or killed — and it isn’t something new, it’s how it was all the time. Which is why he’s actually the one who is scared of escalation the most, but he’ll do everything to show you are the one to be scared.

I guess the last question is: if we presume the fear isn’t that real, is there a reason for the US to help Ukraine? Well, there are just two options:

1. Stay aside & let Putin continue the genocide against Ukrainians. It’s hard to tell if he wins even in this case, but what’s clear is that way more people will die. The most likely intermediate outcome is 38-th parallel style agreement, which Putin will take as a humiliation, but will try to present as a win inside Russia. He’ll plan revenge, of course, so we’ll get back to the same spot in a few years, just with way more blood. In fact, the world did almost exactly this in 2014, and just look where we’re at now.

2. Help Ukraine to push Putin’s army out of Ukraine and give them all the weapons they need to make sure Russia won’t even think of retrying the invasion in the observable future. Keep sanctions on while nearly the same people stay in rule in Russia, but explicitly define a set of conditions for lifting them up. Reparations to Ukraine, democratic elections, free speech, free press, and banning anyone involved in so-called “Special Operation in Ukraine” on Russia’s side from being elected on any level are some of the must have conditions (IMO).

The second option is certainly way more expensive. But it’s the only one that decreases the probability of a much bigger conflict in future. Moreover, the fact that Putin is a coward who actually scared to death of escalation means there is a window of opportunity: it’s possible to push through option #2 now, but if we end up with #1, the same nuclear threats might pop up later, but with the next leader in Russia, who might be way less cowardly.

So Zelensky is right: “Your money is an investment, it’s not a charity” — it is an investment, which increases the probability of us living in a safer world without nuclear threats over the course of 5 to 10 years. And if we count everything that’s been sent so far (it’s 48B$ on Nov 20, including the humanitarian & non-military aid), it’s just 68K$ per each Ukrainian soldier. It’s a tiny number: e.g. just the military gear (vest, weapon, etc.) costs ~ 10–15K$, any larger & more advanced items (rocket launchers, vehicles, HIMARS, etc.) are incomparably more expensive. So they are extremely efficient — and declining their asks to continue helping them to fight the terrorist #1 is unwise at best. Yes, they have no choice. But they do the right thing, they do it well, and if they won’t be able to win, we’ll end up living in a world full of fear.

For the note, I was shocked to see how Tucker Carlson trashed both this statement and Zelensky himself, pointing, in particular, on the lack of proper suit — bloody hell, should this guy wear a Brioni while half of his country is in ruins? And at which point “why should we bother about the genocide of other people” became even ok-ish for America? What about “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”?

P.S. Link to one of charities for Ukraine (there are many, of course, so it’s just one of options if you end up deciding to donate): https://www.facebook.com/RevivedSoldiersUkraine/

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